According to social media impressions, “13 Reasons Why,” the series that profiles a teenager’s journey toward suicide, was last year’s most popular show on Netflix. So, it wasn’t surprising to Dr. Bill Davis, professor of philosophy at Covenant College, that the show was a hit among his students as well.
According to Davis, most of his students and young people in general fear that they might miss out on something, and by doing so, that they might be perceived as someone who is not thoughtful or compassionate.
While such a mindset raises red flags, what concerns Davis more is that the church may not be equipped to minister to those who are contemplating suicide, young and old alike.
On Wednesday, June 13, at General Assembly, Davis and his colleague Dr. Kevin Eames, professor of psychology, will lead a workshop on the topic “Suicide: 13 Reasons the Church Needs to Talk About It.”
The seminar will highlight the cultural context that makes a show like “13 Reasons Why” so popular, while providing guidance and resources to equip pastors who want to better understand the issue and minister to congregants who might be contemplating ending their lives.
The seminar will address the theological implications of a culture of suicide, with the hope of equipping church leaders to push back against it graciously and effectively.
“The culture says that our lives are something that we own, that we have the authority to take our own life,” says Davis. “The church needs to speak about that lovingly and directly, pushing back on the world’s “I own my life’ perspective.”
On the other hand, Eames wants to make sure to highlight mental illness and its relationship to suicide.
“The church needs to be in a position to have a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of mental illness,” Eames says. “According to [recent research] a good percentage of people think that the only solution to mental illness is prayer and Bible study. Prayer and the Bible are essential, but the Lord has also provided us with additional resources like therapy and sometimes medication for those suffering from depression. The church should be equipped to employ all of these resources.”
Ultimately, Davis and Eames hope that participants will walk away with particular things to look out for and better questions to ask those who are struggling.
“We really want to give them a way into the subject that empowers them to do more and not be afraid to talk to it,” Eames says.